Attending: Nick McDonough, John Brandt, Wynn Cudmore, Matt Thorburn, Bob Hansen, Susan Morre, Orville Rice, Ed Cavaille, Brian Carrol
Susan said she has been working to forge partnerships with local growers and increasing seed collection. She is also working in vegetation management with Public Works.
Matt introduced Brian Carrol, from Linn County, who was attending today’s meeting to speak with the group about park user fees and other revenue ideas.
Update on activities since summer 2001:
Aumsville public meeting & parking lotMatt said he thought everyone had been mailed a letter regarding a public meeting that was held in Aumsville with community members regarding Aumsville Ponds Park. He said comments were shared with all, but all community concerns were concerns shared by the department. Neighbors were concerned that the park remain a natural area and that there be more security and/or patrols provided. Matt said there is going to be camp host site built so a caretaker can live on-site during the summer. Also, we will be working with the Sheriff’s department. This will work with the Public Works providing radios to the sheriff’s office, and the sheriff’s office providing increased police patrols. Matt said during the meeting there was a lot of common ground and the key is to follow-up on the relationship with the community by hiring the camp host and increasing the patrols. Susan asked if there is going to be another public meeting. Matt said that there is not another meeting planned at this time. Bob said in the future there might be a contract in place regarding patrol services provided by Aumsville Police Department. He said there is not a restoration plan in place for the park, but said he thought Susan and Matt would be responsible for this after he retires.
Bob said there was some concern about the water level and the need to design what is "happening" on this property. He said the department would like to take a look at what was done in the past when it belonged to ODOT and perhaps do some redesign. Wynn said that surprisingly there is very little flooding in this area because there is natural spillway.
Orville said Public Work’s constructed the parking lot and it cost approximately $12,480.00, with Alternative Programs installing the gates at a cost of $3,000.00. There have been some boulders donated. The lot is about 90% done, with 2-3 days of work needed. The work has been slowed because of inclement weather. Orville said the department is very confident about the gates installed by Alternative Programs.
Bob said we have sold some seed which was harvested from Bonesteele to both the City of Portland and USFW. We are working to provide seed not just for Marion County, but also to other agencies doing restoration work in the Willamette Valley. Susan said several agencies have expressed an interest in purchasing seed from us as it becomes available.
John asked if Bob would remain involved with Parks to insure this project keeps moving ahead. Bob said the current contracts are for 6 years, and he hoped to assist Matt in taking over this particular portion of the department’s work. Wynn said the initial plan for planting was to use an experimental area, and he asked Susan if a good plan had been developed to work in larger areas. Susan said they did solarization, smoke treatment and tilling. Tilling and spraying worked best, with seed drilling. She said they did some testing with smoke treatment and non-smoke treatment and saw no discernible difference in germination, so smoke treatment was discontinued. We have moved away from hand distribution because the seed drill worked so well. Susan said they did the seeding in a checkerboard pattern with grass in one direction and forbs in another, with a small layer of sawdust over the top. There were also prescribed burns done at Bonesteele this past summer. Willamette students did a count of acorns and now they were will be watching to see how the regeneration goes.
Nick asked how the drought affected Bonesteele. Susan said it didn’t affect it much, except for some grass plugs that were recently planted. These needed some supplemental irrigation. Susan said she is very open to ideas from Wynn and the opportunity of working with his students. He said he has some ideas for Aumsville. She said there was some thinning of the oak woodland because they were so crowded. Matt said there were two burns done, with the first not being very successful, the second was successful but very hot. He said in the future it might be better to work with the Nature Conservancy on how to conduct a prescribed burn. Nick asked if there was any research regarding burning during the European era. Matt said during this era they did annual burns. It was suggested that we do this to recreate natural environmental history.
Susan said what would determine how soon we could finish the rest of the acreage, is the seed supply. The neighboring farmer will spray out his commercial crop and then do a no drill tilling. Bob said we were very aggressive in our seed collection, with Susan, Lynda Boyer and Shoulder-to-Shoulder Farms. In the future, the work will be more focused with fewer people, and this may be better for the wildlife. The focus will be on harvest and weeding. John asked how successful the volunteer programs have been out at Bonesteele. Susan said there have been 2 Saturday volunteer work days this fall and will be 3 more in early spring. Bob pointed out the display of Susan’s planting at Bonesteele. This is available on the department web page. Bob said he thought we had spent $10,000 for 50 lbs. of seed. Susan said a lot of the seed sells by the ounce.
Acquisitions: Lake Labish, Koenig Property, Stout Mountain, Way Park
The Koenig property is a piece of property being negotiated for by the River Conservancy (which is getting BPA money), working in coordination with ODFW. What was initially worked out is that Marion County becomes the owner of the property and takes over management when it has the resources. Until then ODFW will manage. At this time ODFW is asking why they were spending their money and the county is not. The deal has not been completed due to these questions by other agencies. This property is part of the Santiam Delta. Wynn asked if Chemeketa students surveyed this property. Bob said they may have done a survey when they did Wiseman Island.
In acquiring Way Park all that is left is to schedule and complete a road tour for the Board of Commissioners to show them the 2 acres. Matt said what we have planned for this park is perhaps a canoe launch.
Bob said Stout Mountain is a unique, environmental piece of property and the Nature Conservancy is attempting to negotiate something with the property owner. It has not been successful at this time. He had a video from Oregon Field Guide that highlighted Stout Mountain. This property is 600 acres. The group then watched the video, which gave a good overview of the property's attributes.
Day Use Fees - Brian Carrol, Linn County Parks:
Orville asked if they staff parks for collection of the day use fees. Brian said there are 2 employees that work from Memorial weekend through Labor Day weekend. He reiterated that due to liability issues, it was important that these fees be called parking fees and not entry fees. John asked about the Recreational Immunity Act, and if it is lost if you charge a entry fee. Brian said this was a gray area, but parks are held to a higher standard for the use of that site and their culpability is higher. He said that if day use fees are implemented, he wanted everyone to keep in mind the possibility of potential liability issues.
Wynn asked about the revenue taken at Lewis Creek and Brian said this amount does not take into account expenditures. It may not generate the revenue level wanted, but it does take care of the problem with cruising in the park. He commented that his staff does not have citation authority if someone does not pay a day use fee and parks their vehicle at the park.
He said Washington County is doing something interesting with day use fees. They adopted an ordinance at Hagg Lake area in which all persons must have a pass if they are doing any recreation activities. Anyone can be cited if they don’t have a pass. Washington County has an annual pass and daily pass. He said they have generated in day use revenue what Linn County generates in camping revenue. He qualified this by saying this is also a volume issue. He said the one caution he has regarding day use fees is the question that when it comes to taking in day use fees, is it going to cost you more to collect them? He said it will be specific to the facility and in his estimation it is nice to offset some of your expenses. Orville asked if they receive General Fund money. Brian said they receive General Fund monies of approximately $350,000, depending on the revenues brought in (last year they brought in $339,000, and are on track to bring in $360,000 this year). They do not have any Service District Charges (SDC’s, which are all rural). He then gave some background/history on the fee structure implementation and what has been done with these dollars.
Their total operating budget for Linn County Parks is approximately $750,000 (compared to Marion County’s budget of $130,000). He said they collect $340,000 in fees, but without General Fund dollars, they could not operate as they now do. They would keep the larger campgrounds open and probably close the outlying areas. They rely on seasonal employees, who work for minimum wage from Memorial weekend through Labor Day weekend. Most of their budget is devoted to development and maintenance, because of the push to become self-sufficient.
He said that overall, the public is accepting of the camping fees, but struggle with the day use fees because they feel their taxes should have paid for this. He said RV licensing fees are going down and that trend will probably continue. This is based on the number of campsites in your county, the number of RV’s in your county. Bob said he had a sense of this trend, and said the loss of dollars while not significant will hit this county very hard. Brian said there are creative ways to do day use fees, but the tough issue is citation authority. Brian encouraged the group to talk with Jerry Davis at Benton County regarding park fees also. Matt thanked Brian for attending and sharing this information with the Commission and staff.
Revenue - ideas on increasing parks revenue stream:
Nick said in regards to the day use fee, he recommended trying it out on the most popular park. He recommended bringing this to the Board of Commissioners as a revenue idea or a levy.
Matt spoke about donation ideas. Bob said he thought we had a responsibility to communicate our financial situation to the Board. He said their understanding is that we are operating on a lower level, but the truth is that it is lowering. Wynn said we may be somewhat at a disadvantage because we are acquiring undeveloped parks which will not bring in RV fee monies. Susan said in some of the educational opportunities we are partnering with schools to provide living labs at our natural parks and that $2 per person (levy) is money well spent. Wynn said he thought we should try to advertise or publicize accomplishments or milestones reached. Matt said he would follow up with a more in-depth analysis of the budget so board members can have a clearer picture. John said he recommended sending info as an FYI to the BOC. Bob said it wouldn’t hurt to have the Chair of the Board come to the BOC and give a 5-10 minute presentation on the parks program.
Maintenance activities & CIPs for 2002:
Volunteers - ideas on recruitment and retention:
Bob suggested that the Parks Commission write a letter of support for signature by all members, regarding the actions and efforts of the parks program. All attending said they would sign such a letter.
Bob spoke about the proposed soccer field for the Parkdale (Hayesville) property. He said as this project progressed, it became a fiasco, but after the article in the Statesman Journal was published the developer found another property off Fisher Road. The developer has had his fundraisers identifying themselves to the public as representatives of "Marion County Parks Foundation." This matter was turned over the Marion County Legal Counsel and it is being handled by their office.
Bob said Public Works/Parks hosted a Society for Ecological Restoration-Northwest (SER-NW) conference on November 9, 2001.
Trip to Bonesteele Prairie and Aumsville Ponds: